News

COSMAC ELF Group Moving to Groups.io

This isn’t the first time the COSMAC ELF group has moved, but it’s been a while.

On April 2, 2001, the COSMAC ELF forum debuted at a website named myforum.net (now long defunct, but the old cosmacelf.myforum.net can still be viewed thanks to archive.org).  The main goal, at the time, was simple: to provide support for a Palm OS based ELF emulator. There wasn’t much traffic, but even so the website was clunky, so in December of 2001 the forum moved to Yahoo Groups.

Yahoo hosted the group for over 17 years, and has served the community well. In recent years, however, Yahoo Groups has stagnated. No features have been added in several years, attachments get handled inconsistently, and most recently Photo uploads broke altogether. Most ominously, however, Yahoo no longer provides a support path for reporting these issues and getting them addressed.

Enter groups.io.

Like Yahoo groups, groups.io supports interaction both through email and via their website. The similarity to Yahoo’s base functionality isn’t surpising: the founder of groups.io is Mark Fletcher, who in 1998 started the business that Yahoo bought in 2000 to create Yahoo groups (more on this history here).

The new group should give you everything Yahoo had, including the Files and Photos sections. The editor on the website supports simple text formatting options like bold and italic text, bullet points, hyperlinks, and inline images. The group will also have a Wiki, allowing you to add persistent, organized content pages about your own projects or collections.

Another nice feature is that any member can download an archive of the group’s content with the click of a button, addressing concerns about loss of content should something unexpected happen, like groups.io going out of business.

Will groups.io be perfect and please everyone? I doubt it. Will there be issues? Probably. Once you get past “SEQ IDL,” life gets complicated. There is reason to believe that groups.io will be an improvement over Yahoo, though.

The old group content will be copied to groups.io soon. When this happens, members with valid email addresses in the Yahoo group will receive a notification of the transfer. After the transfer is completed, the Yahoo group will effectively become read-only, with announcement text redirecting visitors to the new forum.

Hopefully this will be a good move for our community.

The boxes are packed and the truck is idling outside.

See you at our new home, https://groups.io/g/cosmacelf .

Lok’s ELF 2000 Gallery

9 ELF2k final hex cover


Lok thought the Spare Time Gizmos ELF 2000 was a great little computer, but the kits were no longer available. Undaunted, he used the schematics and firmware to build his own from scratch, handwiring it as many did the much simpler original ELF. Then Lok took the project to the next level, crafting an eye-catching maple cabinet for it and topping it off with a plastic dust cover.

For a full set of photos and the story behind Lok’s creation, check out its gallery page.

Thanks for the contribution, Lok!

The Games of Joseph Weisbecker

Photo of Joseph Weisbecker's "Bits and Spaces" game prototype; photo courtesy of The College of New Jersey, reproduced here by permission.


The inventor of the COSMAC architecture, Joseph Weisbecker, had a seemingly boundless enthusiasm for computing. It showed not only in the microprocessor line he created and promoted for RCA, but in the variety of logic puzzles and games he designed to teach and entertain. These are now showcased in a new exhibition at The College of New Jersey, Playing With Innovation: The Games of Joseph Weisbecker.” 

According to curator Florencia Pierri, who organized the exhibition, “it's centered around the paper-and-plastic games that Weisbecker made when he wasn't busy working at RCA. The exhibit focuses on the computer-centric games he and others created, and their place in the history of computing.”

While many of us have seen Think-A-Dot before, some of these games exist only as prototypes and were never commercially available. The online exhibit is nicely organized; click on any game’s picture to get more details on the artifact. The exhibit concludes with some of Weisbecker’s early computer prototypes, including an 1801-based FRED 2 that Herb Johnson has thoroughly detailed on his website. (Herb is also acknowledged as a contributor to this exhibition.)

If you’re in the New Jersey area and would like to visit the exhibition in person, you can find details here.

High Quality OCR Questdata

QuestDataPic

Steve Brune has been busy rescanning Questdata newsletters, with most pages from his own originals, and has made them available here. The new versions look great at 600 DPI with searchable OCR text, but the old versions are still available as well for those who need much smaller, faster downloads.

Thanks for the contribution, Steve!

VCF Midwest 12

The Vintage Computer Festival Midwest continues until 4 p.m. this afternoon, so if you’re in the Chicago area there’s just a few more hours to get in on the fun! Take plenty of photos and send links via the Facebook page so those of us who couldn’t make it can share a sliver of the experience. Have a great time, everyone!

Update September 16, 2017: Links to photos of VCF Midwest are now up on their website.

Boyd Calculator on Hackaday

Al Williams wrote up a nice little article for Hackaday about work he, Bill Rowe, and other forum members have been doing to repurpose some old Boyd calculators based on RCA’s CDP1805. Check it out here!

COSMAC ELF Manual & Build Details

COSMAC ELF Users Manual

After creating a beautiful replica of the original COSMAC ELF, Paul Schmidt documented the heck out of it and made his hard work available for others to learn from. If you want to build one of the simplest computers of the mid-1970s, this is definitely the place to start!

Paul granted permission for his work to be made available here. You can find links on the Books & Papers page for the full ZIP file containing the manual, schematic, parts list and templates, or you can just browse the PDF manual to learn more about the machine.

Build one of your own, then drop by the forum and share your experience!

FIG-Forth Manual & Upcoming Events

FIG-ForthManual

I’d thought about putting up an April Fool’s page of some sort, but I’ve had so little time for the site lately I was afraid it would stay in place until Halloween --- my “Happy Holidays” has been the top News item here for entirely too long. So instead I found a few minutes to pull a couple lingering tasks from the backlog, no fooling.

New to the Books & Papers area are links to Dr. C-H Ting’s FIG-Forth manual. Juergen Pintaske worked with the author to make this available in Amazon’s Kindle format for a modest fee. You can search for “Juergen Pintaske” on your local Amazon website to find other Forth related works Juergen has helped resurrect as well.

Also (finally!) you may notice that the Upcoming Events in the links area of each page have been updated for 2017’s Vintage Computer Festivals. VCF East is going on right now in Wall, New Jersey! If you see anything COSMAC related, drop by the forum and let us know all about it!

For fans of the original ELF, there’s some terrific content from Paul Schmidt that’ll be be hosted here soon.

Happy Holidays!

We wish you, your families, and your Elves all the best this holiday season! Let’s build something clever in 2017!

ElfXmas2016

Build & Win An ELF at VCF Midwest

Celebrate the 40th anniversary of the COSMAC ELF computer by participating in a build of one at the Vintage Computer Festival Midwest --- and possibly taking it home with you! The idea is simple: drop by our booth at the festival and wire-wrap a connection or two (we’ll have the parts and tools and will show you how). Everyone who participates will get a raffle ticket, and the newly built ELF will then be raffled off. Bring your favorite kid along and give them a taste of microcomputing’s early days.

The design and build is very similar to the original ELF, but with a few improvements to lower its power requirements and provide for easy expansion. The design is primarily the work of Lee Hart (creator of the tiny, popular Membership Card computers) and Josh Bensadon, with parts donated by several community members.


© Dave Ruske 2001-2019, except where noted